Council paid €800k/acre on floodplain

Kerry County Council paid up to €800,000 to acquire an acre of land on a Listowel floodplain for social housing as recently as 2008.

And in west Kerry, near the village of Ballyferriter, close to €1m was paid by the county council’s housing department for less than two acres of land, and over €504,000 was paid for a further one-acre site.

The prices were released this week to county councillors in Kerry.

Other areas where the council bought land for inflated prices include: Kenmare, Milltown, Sneem, and Rathmore in east Kerry.

However, with a change in government policy on housing, there is now a surplus of council land in all parts of the county. In the private sector, there are 4,500 houses for sale, a council meeting was told.

Facing annual repayments of over €1.2m, the council is now applying to the Department of the Environment in the hope it will take some of Kerry’s surplus lands under a Land Aggregation Scheme. In all, 40 acres bought for €15.3m is being submitted. Other land banks are to be retained.

In December last, a small number of councillors had pressed for the release of the original prices after a table of interest on what was being paid was set before them.

John Breen, the council’s housing director, said normally the purchase price would be “commercially sensitive” but enough time had elapsed now since the purchases.

Some councillors appeared stunned by the monies paid out for land.

Fianna Fáil councillor John Brassil queried why such “huge prices” had been paid in Ballyferriter and in Listowel.

He asked whether the council would actually succeed in handing over 6.48 acres of land at Castleinch near Listowel, for which €5.6m had been paid in 2008, “given that it is on a floodplain and also landlocked”.

It was unlikely permission would ever be obtained on that land, he stated.

Cllr Toireasa Ferris (SF), one of a majority voting to apply to the department was critical of the land bank. “We have Nama for the developers, Land Aggregation for the local authorities, and we have absolutely nothing for Joe Soap,” she said.

Councillors voted 18-3 in favour of submitting an application to the department to offload the land. Six members were absent.

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